NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “The Walking Dead” are present in this review
After managing to do quite well with the more light-hearted, “The Next World” last week, The Walking Dead continued on a strong note with, “Knots Untie” this week. With most of the episode centered around the development of new character, Jesus, and how he relates to a world of post-apocalyptic communities that goes far beyond that of Alexandria, the scale of the series seems to be expanding once again, and hopefully for the better. So far though, this new network of communities seems to be starting on a good note.
The episode also avoids wasting time as well, which is another pitfall that The Walking Dead too often falls into in its more recent seasons, for want of satisfying the obligatory 16-episode season order. Things immediately begin with Jesus getting free of his confinement, and managing to get Rick and Michonne to the negotiating table, after surprising them in a rather, “Uncomfortable” position at the very end of last week’s episode. Before long, he’s established that there are neighbouring communities around Alexandria, and that his is one of them, and can help solve Alexandria’s apparent food shortage problem. I guess that happened in the meantime. Still, it’s as good an excuse as any to have Rick’s crew meeting new folks.
The theme of relationships and connection was pretty apparent throughout this episode, and it seemed to tease lots of exciting new character turns for the future, between Maggie’s pregnancy, Abraham feeling a pang of attraction for Sasha, despite still being very much in love with Rosita, and of course, Rick and Michonne now being an item… Sort of. Honestly, this was the lone weak spot in what was a pretty strong episode this week; The fact that the show kind of glossed over the mega-bomb of Rick and Michonne now entering a relationship, especially when they don’t do so in the comics. Rick even tries to talk to Carl about it, and Carl basically just shrugs. Seriously? That’s it? You’d think that there would be more of an effect on the group, or at least with Carl, but apparently, people are more interested in Maggie’s baby. Hell, even Abraham’s sudden implied attraction to Sasha isn’t really brought up for most of the episode, and might as well have been saved for later.
Nonetheless, the introduction to Jesus’ community is done well. We get a pretty solid action scene of Rick and co. saving some of Jesus’ crew from Walkers, and that gives them an audience with the community leader, Gregory. Gregory is kind of a tool, but he does seem to be good at keeping the community running. He also refuses to deal with anyone except for Maggie, whom he keeps mistakenly calling, “Natalie”, as a comical indication of just how poorly he deals with people on a personal level.
It was awesome to see Maggie have a more memorable and pivotal turn for the first time in a while in this episode. She’s mostly served as little more than emotional fodder for the past few episodes, and, at worst, she’s even come off as a bit of a damsel-in-distress, as if she can barely function without Glenn being present. Glenn was still hanging with the rest of the group in this episode, but Maggie managed to represent the group well without Glenn’s involvement, effectively reminding viewers why her character has remained so appealing in the first place, even with all of her other family members being dead at this point in the series.
Another big strength of this episode came from how well it continued to foreshadow arch-villain, Negan, and his brutal gang, The Saviors. The Saviors have apparently been forcing Gregory and Jesus’ settlement to give them half of their supplies at regular intervals, and when the crops don’t satisfy, they even capture and murder several of the community’s ambassadors, even forcing one of them to stab Gregory to save the life of one of their own! This results in another nicely tense and effective scene, where Rick and co. are forced to subdue the attackers, and kill the man who stabs Gregory, though Gregory fortunately survives, and Jesus uses this melee as an opportunity to show his community why dealing with Rick’s group is necessary.
Maggie brings the episode home by beating Gregory at his own game, and using the leverage that he formerly held over Rick’s group to instead claim that Rick’s crew can leave the community to eventually be bled dry and killed by The Saviors, or they can enter a new arrangement with Rick’s crew, who will wipe out Negan and The Saviors for them. Obviously, Maggie might not know just who she’s dealing with yet, if the Walking Dead comics and their portrayal of The Saviors are any indication, but it was awesome to see the episode strike a good middle between Maggie and Rick’s party being ruthless, but also being the lesser evil when placed in contrast to Negan’s gang, and its ultra-brutal way of doing things.
“Knots Untie” was a very satisfying episode of The Walking Dead, even with barely any Walkers featured this week, and effectively expanded the scope of the post-apocalyptic world in a great new way, while also continuing to set up the key villains that we know will be the focal point in Season Seven. Maggie taking charge and matching wits with Gregory proved to be highly entertaining, just as Jesus’ community turning out to be on the level, and under the thumb of a larger threat, effectively gave Rick’s party something to do, now that they’ve pretty much obliterated the Wolves, and restored order to Alexandria, however contrived that was during the midseason premiere. I’m cautiously optimistic that Season Six’s final few episodes seem like they’re going to be better than the midway slump that this season suffered though, so let’s hope that this better pattern of episodes keeps up!
- Effective expansion of post-apocalyptic community scale
- Maggie representing Rick's group well with Gregory
- Superb foreshadowing of The Saviors
- Rick/Michonne relationship bomb is largely glossed over